No matter where you come from or where you’re going, the Y community welcomes you.

President and CEO, Sandy Berlin Walker with kids

For many Americans, the zip code you’re born into has a huge impact on your ability to determine your future. The Y strives to change this reality, by opening its doors to all, creating opportunities for children, adults and families to learn, connect, grow and thrive.

We believe everyone deserves the same opportunities, no matter who you are or where you’re from, because in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, five numbers (your zip code) shouldn’t determine your destiny.

From early learning to college prep, year-round meal programs to mentorship, the Y’s programs and services help ensure everyone can flourish, regardless of who they are or where they’re from.

Here’s how people from your neighborhoods are using Y programs to achieve a better life, and improve the lives of those in their community.

Zip code 95126 – Central YMCA

Bella and her two young daughters joined Central YMCA after leaving an abusive home environment. Searching for a safe space for herself and her children to heal and discover new positive family dynamics, the Y offered a fresh environment for their family to start anew.

Getting back on their feet had been emotionally and economically exhausting. Financial assistance helped Bella get a family Y membership and swim lessons for her daughters. On swim lesson days, Bella would bring the girls to Kid’s Club so that she could have some time to herself for a workout class and a shower with peace of mind. Her daughters loved the Kid’s Club staff and felt safe there.

Swim Lesson

From there they would head to the pool for swim lessons. Her older daughter, Miriam, had limited experience in pools, but took to swimming “like a fish!”  By summer’s end, she passed her swim test, gained confidence, and felt immense pride. Miriam’s accomplishments in the pool inspired her younger sister to work towards the goal of passing the swim test herself. Bella is confident that with the support of Y staff, both her daughters will be strong confident kids and swimmers by next summer. “Without Central YMCA, I would have felt lost. We get so excited to come to the Y and forget our troubles for a few hours every day. I’m just so grateful.”

Zip code 95014 – Northwest YMCA

Family camping

As a father, Shin Choi has enjoyed connecting with his children through the exploration of the great outdoors, thanks to his involvement in Northwest YMCA's Adventure Guides program. Choi joined Adventure Guides to spend quality time with each of his children, and his family was able to share the experience with friends too. Today, his eldest daughter is in college but they still remember enjoying Adventure Guides together. Shin Choi shares, “I have memories for a lifetime with all my kids – priceless.”

Zip code 95070 – Southwest YMCA

A new member to Southwest YMCA, Chusak Chamkasem, took his wife’s advice in joining. Already a member, his wife understood just how much her husband’s health could benefit from consistently swimming at the Y. He was reluctant to join, but with encouragement from his wife and the enthusiastic Y membership staff, he made the commitment to improve his health.

When he arrived at the Y, his heart health needed improvement, and he was dealing with severe sciatic pain in his leg. Chusack started by walking slowly in the pool and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not exhausting, but rather, energizing. From there, he increased his activity level by jogging in the pool with a kick board. 6 days a week he did 35 laps of the 25 ft pool, taking him anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes. After almost 2 months of consistent work at the Y, he found the sciatica in his left leg had decreased dramatically. His motivation to continue working on his health has increased each day with the encouragement from Y staff, and the tangible improvements to his health.

Zip code 94303 – Lewis and Joan Platt East Palo Alto Family YMCA

Kim’s first experience with the Y was as a young child. She learned to swim at the East Palo Alto Family YMCA, and spent many summers participating in day camp. As a middle schooler, Kim participated in the Youth Institute program, and transitioned into Youth and Government when she entered Castalleja High School.

This year marks Kim’s fourth year in the Y’s Youth and Government Program. She has taken on new challenges, and grown as a leader over the course of these 4 years, serving as the East Palo Alto YMCA’s Delegation’s President this year. Her involvement in the program has helped Kim grow. She has developed public speaking skills and become a confident young leader.  Kim has embraced her leadership role, inspired to help other students have the same positive experience that she has enjoyed.

Zip code 94303 – Palo Alto Family YMCA

Youth and Government

Suhani Sethi was 12 years old when she moved from India with her family to Palo Alto, CA. She remembers how scared she was starting a new school in a new environment. Her mother signed her up for Palo Alto Family YMCA’s Youth & Government program, Model United Nations, and originally Suhani tried her best to get out of it, “My mother, adamant as ever, dropped me off at my first meeting and sat outside because she thought I would try to leave.”

Over time, Suhani fell in love with the program and realized how close she had become with fellow delegates and how much the experience meant to
her. She had found the place of belonging she had been longing for. Suhani was such an active participant in the program she decided to run for and was elected President of the Palo Alto delegation. “I got to learn new things with my peers while simultaneously leading them in group activities. Model United Nations provided learning opportunities for me while also providing a second home.”

Four years later, Suhani continues to thrive in Youth & Government in the high school program, Model Legislature & Court, and was recently appointed as a committee chair for a Legislative House in the statewide program.

Zip code 94040 – El Camino YMCA

Youth Basketball

While it’s hard for 10-year-old Wynter to decide who her favorite basketball player is, one thing is clear—she likes to be on the court. Her Aunt Vanetta was in search of a welcoming place where she and her niece could work out together to help Wynter reach a healthy weight for her age. The Y offered Vanetta a place to support Wynter’s health, and nurture their growing relationship.

“At the Y, I found a family-friendly place where my niece and I could exercise. The Y has helped me mentally and physically, and has helped my niece emotionally, as she lost her mother a few months ago and faces some health concerns. Exercising together has been awesome. She dances and sings on the machines and makes it very fun. She gets so excited about basketball, her new favorite activity.”

Zip code 94061 – Sequoia YMCA

Despite frost and freezing night-time temperatures, 10 middle school students from Redwood City had an amazing time exploring and photographing fall colors and scenes in Yosemite. Partnering with Parks in Focus, the Udall Foundation, the Yosemite Conservancy, and our very own donors, Sequoia YMCA was once again able to provide these students the opportunity of a cost free, once in a lifetime camping trip to Yosemite National Park. The original August trip was delayed due to the forest fires in Yosemite and rescheduled for this fall. From seeing Half Dome courtesy of Glacier Point, to a sunset hike up Sentinel Dome, the pictures from these participants of this photography camp truly speak for themselves.

Group with leaders

Additionally, all participants and staff participated in a stewardship project to help keep Yosemite safe and beautiful! This year’s project was weeding plants that do harm to the park, as well as planting new plants in areas that were destroyed due to cars driving over them and people hiking off trails through them.

“Many of our local youth have never had the opportunity to explore our national parks or experience sleeping outdoors,” said Julie Wesolek, executive director of Sequoia YMCA. “We are proud to be able to partner with Parks in Focus® to provide amazing opportunities that foster resiliency and a love for the outdoors. The focus on photography and conserving our public lands is the icing on the cake.”

Zip code 95037 – Mt Madonna YMCA

A woman walking by the Gilroy wellness studio heard the beats of the music and decided to walk in. Immediately welcomed by Y staff, she began to ask questions about what classes were offered. As she learned about membership and group fitness classes, another member jumped in to say simply, “come and join us!”

Drawn in by the enthusiastic welcome, the woman agreed, “Okay, I will try it.” Blown away by the amazing welcome she signed up for the Y that day. A single mom, she was new to the area, looking for friends and a place to belong. Her teenage son has disabilities, so she hoped to be able to bring him with her when she came to workout.

The Y staff immediately let her know that as an inclusive organization, he would of course be welcome at the Y. Her face lit up with a huge smile and hugs of gratitude were shared. The following week, mother and son came to the studio. Everyone in the facility was welcoming, caring and happy to see them. Now they attend the Gilroy wellness studio 4-5 times a week. She has made friends and, thanks to the Y she feels welcomed in the community, engaged, socially and emotionally part of the YMCA family.

Donors, volunteers, members, Y staff, and community members like YOU help millions of people develop the skills and relationships they need to be healthy, confident, and connected– helping the Y build equity in communities across the country.